In what the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) called “an extraordinary move,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Bob Martin laid out a case to fisheries managers and the federal government why the summer flounder quota (acceptable biological catch or ABC) should be set at 16.26 million pounds to avoid catastrophic damage to New Jersey’s recreational fishing industry and associated businesses.
Testifying on February 2, 2017 before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), Martin demanded both fairness and status quo in the summer flounder fishery for 2017, and appealed to Commissioners to either stop or delay their vote for deep cuts to the fluke quota this season.
“If the Commissioners in this room do not choose to support postponing action or vote in favor of status quo the State of New Jersey will use every legal, administrative and political tool available to protect our recreational summer flounder industry from a decision that we believe will destroy that industry,” stated Commissioner Martin.
“We will do everything possible to prevent the destruction of our $1.2 billion industry that directly employs over 20,000 people in our State and attracts tens of thousands of people to our coastal communities every year,” added Martin.
RFA said that the state of New Jersey provided detailed reasons for making such a demand, citing flawed data, a benchmark stock assessment that is old and inaccurate, use of a stock model that proven to be unreliable and out of date, and information from New Jersey’s own stock assessments showing summer flounder stock to be healthy and actually experiencing growth. Commissioner Martin even presented facts from a recent Academy of Science review of the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) which has recommended 38 changes that must be made in order for the program to provide accurate and useable landing data.
“RFA applauds this unprecedented action by Governor Chris Christie and Commissioner Bob Martin who have been outspoken critics of the heavy-handed and unreasonable burden that Magnuson is putting on the fishermen of New Jersey and its fishing related industries,” Jim Donofrio, RFA executive director, said. “The state of New Jersey has realized that they can’t help fishermen when their hands are tied by Magnuson and the Christie administration pledged to help us carry that message to the Trump White House.”
Regrettably, the motion made by New Jersey’s Adam Nowalsky for status quo or at least to postpone final action until later this month when ASMFC meets jointly with the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) in Kitty Hawk, NC failed by a significant margin.
Immediately following the ASMFC actions last Thursday in Alexandria, VA Commissioner Martin and his delegation crossed the Potomac and continued the fight on Capitol Hill where it will begin a campaign to push lawmakers to work with the Trump Administration and members of Congress to take up the task of fixing a flawed and unworkable Magnuson Steven Act, the nation’s overarching federal fisheries law.
Word of New Jersey’s official stance in support of saltwater anglers in the state, as well as their effort to secure congressional support of Magnuson reform from New Jersey’s congressional delegation, was met with optimism by members of the tackle industry as wll.
“A well-crafted sustainable fisheries law should be exactly that,” said Nick Cicero, sales manager of the Folsom Corporation, a national manufacturer and distributor of fishing tackle. “It must safeguard both the resource and accessibility to that healthy resource.”